Safley said such a program wouldn’t require smaller growers to invest in value-added equipment.
She said larger growers with processing equipment could contract with smaller growers to grow the additional products and small growers could form cooperatives as some in Palatka, Fla., are doing to serve the segment, Safley said.
Districts can’t accept 15 crates of fresh produce because their narrow margins wouldn’t allow the additional labor needed to clean, dice and prepare the produce, she said.
R.C. Hatton Farms, Pahokee, Fla., which markets its corn and beans through Hugh H. Branch Inc., lowered a bid by $5 on its corn cobbettes when it expanded its sales to Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Orange counties.
Safley said Hatton and Pero Family Farms, Delray Beach, Fla., were trailblazers in selling produce to south Florida school districts.
“The farm-to-school program goes much further than sales and transactions of commodities to school systems,” said Nick Bergstrom, Pero’s chief sales officer.
“It’s a lot of opportunities for interaction between the farmers and the schools where growers are able to reach out and help with the educational process and have interaction with the children in the schools about what farming is.”
The state is helping drive the initiative and is making sure schools are a viable marketplace for growers to plan for, Bergstrom said.
Sound distribution partnerships can make those kinds of programs successful for other states as well, he said.
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